Daily Archives: 24 December 2010

Legacies of Clara Hepburn’s Juku in Yokohama, 1863

From: American Missionaries, Christian Oyatoi, and Japan 1859–73, by Hamish Ion (UBC Press, 2009), pp. 59-60:

Before he rented it out in May 1864, Hepburn had taught students Western medicine in his dispensary. Among those whom he taught was Yamanouchi Bunzaburo, the uncle of Hayashi Tadasu, and Hayashi Yuteki, who founded the famous Maruzen Bookstore. Clara Hepburn also taught them English. She was a trained teacher, having taught at the Norristown Academy in Pennsylvania before marrying, and was teaching several boys whose progress in reading and writing English had been altogether satisfactory and in some cases remarkable.

Hepburn Juku ([supplementary, a.k.a. “cram”] School), which Clara began in November 1863 shortly after her return from the United States, had its beginning in a Sunday school for the young boys and girls in the treaty settlement that she held in the front waiting room of the dispensary (being Sunday, there were no patients). Japanese children were also allowed to attend. It was from this Sunday school that an English-language school developed. Hepburn Juku had among its young students some who would become famous figures, including future prime minister Takahashi Korekiyo; foreign minister Hayashi Tadasu; leading businessman Masuda Takashi, who helped to establish the Mitsui zaibatsu, a major industrial and financial conglomerate; and surgeon general Miyake Hiizu (Shigeru). Thirteen-year-old Hayashi, the nephew of a doctor who had studied with Hepburn, was the first student. It was a manifestation of a growing awareness of the importance of English that these young boys came to Yokohama in order to learn it. However, their successful careers were predicated on the fact that these boys did not become Christians, and their presence at Hepburn Juku was often merely a brief interlude (by way of attending an English-language crammer, which prepared them for entry into American schools, and familiarizing themselves with Americans) before setting out to the United States or elsewhere overseas to study.

It was Hepburn’s later deep involvement in the establishment of Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo that allowed the university to claim that its origins can be traced back to 1863 and to Hepburn Juku (and so bask in the reflected light of being connected to such a great figure in modern Japanese history as Takahashi, whose abiding reputation has been undoubtedly helped by his vicious assassination by militarists in the attempted coup of February [1936]. Takahashi made a special visit to Hepburn’s house in East Orange, New Jersey, when he was in New York on government business during the Russo-Japanese War. Clara was too ill in hospital to see him, but he had a conversation with Hepburn in which he expressed his gratitude for Clara’s efforts in teaching English. More immediately, the success of Clara Hepburn’s efforts undoubtedly contributed to a very significant development, as it turned out, taking place in Yokohama in 1864.

Some Japanese officials at the customs house in Yokohama had approached Hepburn with a request that he establish a school for the benefit of interpreters and others who might obtain government permission to attend it. After consulting with the Dutch Reformed missionaries, the Yokohama Eigakujo (Eigakko, also known as the Yokohama Academy), was organized and opened. From the start the school was a success.

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Legacies of Hepburn’s First Dictionary of Japanese, 1867

From: American Missionaries, Christian Oyatoi, and Japan 1859–73, by Hamish Ion (UBC Press, 2009), pp. 80-81:

[In 1866] Hepburn‘s dictionary was being printed at a rate of 6 pages a day, with nearly 250 pages of the first part of Japanese to English – out of a total of 600 pages – finished. Hepburn was now writing out a second part to the dictionary of English to Japanese (something he had not previously contemplated), which would add approximately another 300 pages. He had a deadline of 1 June to have it completed. It was an expensive business, costing two dollars a page for composition alone, and even though Walsh had agreed to cover any losses, Hepburn was obliged to pay him back all monies from sales until the debt was cancelled. There was going to be no immediate financial benefit to Hepburn from all his work.

Surprisingly, the dictionary was finished ahead of schedule, and Hepburn was back in healthy Yokohama by late May 1867 and able to send off a copy to the mission library back home. Although Hepburn was discounting the early work of his friend Brown in claiming his was the first dictionary, it was an immense achievement, far surpassing any nineteenth-century rival. Yet, the dictionary had its limitations for those learning Japanese. Interestingly, in early 1870, Christopher Carrothers, a new Presbyterian missionary then learning Japanese, wrote that Hoffman’s Japanese grammar was the best assistant for the written language: “Dr. Brown’s Grammar and Dr. Hepburn’s Dictionary are more adapted to the Colloquial. Hoffman is soon to issue a Japanese Dictionary for which we are anxiously waiting. Carrothers was referring to J.J. Hoffman, a German linguist who learnt Chinese, Japanese, and Korean in Europe and in 1868 produced a Japanese grammar in Dutch and English. Even though Hepburn’s dictionary might have been more suited for those using colloquial speech than wanting to acquire the written language, it remains Hepburn’s greatest contribution to opening Japan, not only to missionaries but also to the English-speaking world. It should not be forgotten that Hepburn was helped by the work of other Western scholars who had attempted Chinese or Japanese grammars and dictionaries before him, including W.H. Medhurst, Karl Gutzlaff, and S.W. Williams among China missionaries, and Liggins, Brown, and Hoffman when it came to Japan and Europe. He also benefited from the assistance of Kishida Ginkō, who had been with Hepburn in Kanagawa and accompanied him to Shanghai. In September 1872, the Japan Weekly Mail noted that the second edition of the dictionary “is a fresh encouragement to foreigners in this country to pursue the study of the Japanese language, and to the Japanese it will afford invaluable assistance in the study of ours.” The newspaper predicted that its print run of three thousand would be quickly sold out. It was close to a century later – in the early 1960s with the publication of the Nelson dictionary – before another American missionary produced a dictionary that would have a similar profound impact on those learning Japanese. The Hepburn system of romanization of Japanese, which the earlier dictionary first introduced and the Nelson dictionary used, remains the standard system of romanization.

The dictionary was typeset and printed in Shanghai, where it required “making copper matrices and casting of new Japanese as well as specialized English type, so the actual printing was moving at a snail’s pace” (p. 79).

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